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Contour lines

The VRM methodology is a scientific method developed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the USA to assess the suitability of visual impacts in an objective manner. It also provides a way to analyse potential visual impacts and apply visual design techniques to ensure that surface-disturbing activities are in harmony with their surroundings.

Determining how an area should be managed first requires an assessment of the area’s scenic value as different areas require different levels of management. It is not intended to be the only means of resolving these impacts. It should be used as a guide, tempered by common sense, to ensure that every attempt is made to minimise potential visual impacts.

The basic philosophy underlying the system is: The degree to which a management activity affects the visual quality of a landscape depends on the visual contrast created between a project and the existing landscape. Modifications which repeat the basic elements (form, line, colour and texture) found in that environment create lower degrees of contrast and subsequently less visual impact.

There are two stages, the Visual Inventory and the Contrast Rating:

  • The visual inventory stage involves the identification of the visual resources of the area, assigning them to inventory classes. The process involves rating the visual appeal of the property, measuring public concern for scenic quality and determining whether the tract of land is visible from travel routes or observation points. Through the inventory process Objective Classes are assigned to each defined land parcel.

  • A visual contrast rating process is used to measure contrast, which involves comparing the proposed modifications with the major features in the existing landscape in terms of the basic design elements of form, line, colour, and texture. Based on this analysis, mitigation measures are suggested which could be used as a guide for resolving visual impacts.

The two stages can be run concurrently; however, it is recommended that the visual inventory stage is undertaken at the preplanning stage. This allows for the early identification of the baseline visual issues and the generation of a site development plan less inclined to generate accumulative impacts.

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